Posted in Story

A square peg, always on the outside

My Notebook: Printed Pages – 3

By C.E. Pereira

My whole life I have always been on the outside looking in. I have never felt that I belonged in any group of friends. I am different and had to always explain what a Eurasian was made up of. I’ve written a couple of poems on this too.

My first day at primary school I had noticed the racial segregration the girls were in. There was the Chinese group, the Malay group, the Indian group and the lost ones, like me, scattered as individuals.

As the weeks went by, one group accepted me into their fold. My new friends were Chinese and Indians. And all of us were Catholics. I found this too was another type of segregration.

My friends always bombarded me with questions on my race. Being of mixed race, what was my mother tongue? What kind of food did we eat at home? Was it Asian or European food? When eating did we use chopsticks or fork and spoon or did we use our fingers? Which culture did we follow, Asian or European?

I am not Malay or Scottish. I am neither English or Portuguese. I am one quarter part of these four races combined. If we go back in time where black was black and white was white, it shows how Eurasians originated.

Society on both side of Europe and Asia frowned on mixed marriages. Children born in these marriages were considered half-breed. And neither side of society wanted that child to be labeled as their race.

So, society decided to create a new race, hence Eurasians came about. This was a stigma to the early Eurasians. Today, being of mixed parentage is so much more acceptable. The child bears the fathers’ race without any prejudice.

Then there’s our food, a mixture of all these races, including Indian, Chinese and others. From the Portuguese Devil curry, egg tarts, Sugee cake and Vindaloo curry to the English Beef stew and Bread pudding. Then we have the Scottish Porridge, Sausages and mashed potatoes. After that comes the Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes of Nasi Lemak, fried Kueh Teow, Roti Canai and many more.

So, how was I to explain that this hodgepodge collection of food was to me my Eurasian heritage. The food was of these different races but they were also Eurasian. My friends couldn’t understand. To them I had no original food or culture, or race.

As my surname is Portuguese, can I safely claim the Pork Vindaloo and the Sugee Cake as mine? My Dad always made a mean Vindaloo and a superb Sugee Cake. Very dicey as I am only one quarter part of this race. Maybe a fusion between East and West.

Throughout my school life I’d be asked these same questions by new teachers and new friends. I always took time to explain my mixed heritage, of being Asian and European. I am a hodgepodge, and my culture was a combination of both European and Asian.

I have accepted that it is normal for those of the same race to form their own group of friends. I am always welcomed but I notice that after the first ten minutes my friends will converse in their own mother tongue. And I’m left out. When they remember that I’m there they become embarassed and apologetic. Yet still I’m left on the outside. A very square peg that cannot fit into their circle.

After year six in an all girl’s primary school, I started secondary education in a co-ed school. My Dad had retired and we moved from Sentul to Jinjang. There was no all girl’s secondary school in Jinjang. And further more the race quota here was 99% Chinese.

So, for the next five years, my friends were all Chinese except for one Malay boy and three Indian boys. Among the girls I was the only different one. It was in this school that I learned to accept that I couldn’t change my spots. I am that rainbow, with different colours mixed together. What is that new colour? No one recognises, no one understands.

I will always be a square peg. I am not a circle. I am a little of everything but never a whole of anything. I will always stand out in any group of the same race. Yet, they will forget I am there, amongst them. Does this make sense to you? It still doesn’t make sense to me. I am a square peg outside the circle. Always a loner.